One minute you’re driving along I-95, I-77, or a local highway and the next minute your vehicle sits crossways in an intersection – accidents happen fast. In the aftermath, drivers often forget to keep track of crucial information that may protect them later. Print this checklist and keep it in your glovebox. After a car accident, run through our information gathering checklist to ensure you take the appropriate steps.
Important Items to Get immediately after an Auto Accident
Your After Car Accident Information/Item Gathering Checklist:
- Smartphone, Cellphone, and/or Camera. While we cannot advocate using these devices while driving, they play a crucial role in accident investigations and injury claims. Keep your device nearby in the aftermath of an accident. Take pictures of everything, including injuries, the location of the vehicles, weather conditions, property damage, and the items in your vehicle. Consider taking videos and as many different pictures as possible to improve the investigative process. If you use a dash cam, dismount it and keep it with you.
- Drivers & Witness Contact Information. Gather the following information for all people at the scene. Record names, phone numbers, addresses, license plate numbers, and insurance information for all drivers involved in the incident. For witnesses, ask for names and contact information of all witnesses on the scene. If possible, record license plate numbers. Investigators may use license plate information to contact a witness later.
- Police Officers and Emergency Responders. Ask the attending officers for names, badge numbers, and the police report number/lookup information. Responders, record the names, company name, and any professional numbers associated with the personnel on the scene for reference later.
- Personal Belongings. To avoid additional losses, record all your belongings in the vehicle or gather them before allowing tow truck companies to take it away.
- A Written Description of the Scene. If possible, write down everything you can remember from the accident as soon as possible. Include small details and facts including a description of traffic, if you noticed distracted driving, and how you feel immediately after the accident. Write down information for every vehicle in the accident including the make, model, and license plate number. As time passes, your memory of the incident will face and become less reliable. A complete description will help you recall facts in subsequent investigations and legal proceedings.
- A Copy of the Accident Report. In South Carolina, you must file an accident report for all accidents that involve over $1,000 in property damage, injuries, and/or death. If a police officer does not attend the scene of the accident, file Traffic Collision Report, Form FR-309 within 15 days. If you do not file an accident report, you may lose your ability to pursue a legal claim for compensation. After the initial filing, check with the appropriate authority to secure a copy of the accident report. Keep the report in your records.
- Medical Records. If you suffered an injury in the accident, file copies of all records in a safe place. Always seek medical support after an accident to create a record of the incident in a medical facility. If you receive ongoing treatment for chronic or severe injuries, keep gas receipts, prescription receipts, and copies of all medical invoices. This information may help you recover compensation for medical expenses if you choose to file a claim.
Information after an accident can protect you from liability and it can protect your right to pursue compensation in a legal claim. Remember to use caution when you interact with other drivers, police officers, insurance adjustors, and witnesses after the accident. Any admission of fault or opinion may harm you later. If you keep the information in this checklist, your personal injury attorney can quickly work on an investigation and legal claim to protect your rights.